By Marissa Georgopoulos
We’ve all seen this Time Magazine cover and formed an opinion on the right duration of breastfeeding.
The entire topic surrounding breastfeeding has become so controversial – mainly stemming from this coverage.
The amount of women breastfeeding in public has lessened significantly as a result of this associated stigma, and that is a shame. There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding – it’s actually pretty amazing – but the timing should be appropriate.
The picture is cringe-worthy. There is no valid reason for a mother to breastfeed her child beyond the point of one year (at the most). Most of the time the struggle to stop comes from a mother’s attachment, but seeing a toddler capable of walking latched on to his mother’s breast proves it is not okay.
As a side note, anyone who knows me makes constant mention of my love for babies and toddlers. I naturally let out a big “awwww” each and every time I see one and can’t wait to have my own. Breastfeeding a baby in its early stages is beautiful. It’s a time for the mother and child to bond, the bub to build a strong immunity and to embrace its mother’s natural vitamins and nutrients.
A female does not need children of her own to understand the primary function of breastfeeding and realise that the child’s needs and overall welfare are the main priority.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) children should be breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. After that, additional foods are recommended in conjunction with breastfeeding for up to two years or more.
“Two years or more” does not apply to everyone.
The amount of women breastfeeding in public has lessened significantly as a result of this associated stigma, and that is a shame.
Susan Williams from Zest Nutrition is a dietician and nutritionist. She said that WHO must provide this information as global advice, which explains why the time suggested so long; there is a strong emphasis on developing countries due to the abundance of disease and constant presence of malnutrition. In these circumstances, the health benefits from breast milk are crucial for new life.
WHO says that in these first months of life there is nothing more nutritious for the baby. Whilst formula can be utilised, it does not equate to the significant benefits that breast milk does give children.
I’ve heard countless stories from women about their struggle to breastfeed for longer than a few months. Either the baby weans itself or the process is difficult for both involved. If so many mothers are finding it challenging to continue breastfeeding beyond 3-6 months, why on earth are others breastfeeding their talking and walking toddlers?!
Better Health Channel says that children aged 1-2 are experiencing rapid development. At this point they are going through social and emotional development, physical skills, language development and an understanding of the world around them. This shows that the bubs have become little people and so parents’ behaviour should change to compliment this.
It can be really hard for a mother to stop breastfeeding. I cannot wait to experience the joys of being a mum, especially in the first few months of realising what it is to be a tiny one’s necessity. It is a mother’s idea of being her baby’s ‘rock’ for care, comfort and more. No one wants to stop an experience that brought great memories of closeness, but weaning a baby off the breast does not mean the bond is broken. In fact, there are so many other ways to bond with your child. Watch a movie once a day, just you and your baby, or read them a story if you feel like you need that breastfeeding time – there are always appropriate replacements as your child grows and needs to let go.
There is no need to go cold turkey when it comes to breastfeeding. Remember, as much as you love it, the smaller version of you loves it just as much. Weaning is the best way to maintain this bonding time and simultaneously work with your CHILD’S NEEDS. Why can’t a mother hold her baby in her arms for hours as the munchkin sucks on a dummy/pacifier? You do not need to let go completely.
Breastfeeding is such an integral part of a baby’s experience in the world and it really is beautiful if it works for the mum and bub. Sure, there are different situations out there and the mother-child arrangement works for them and might go a little longer than normal, but there does comes a time where it needs to stop, and sooner is better than later. You don’t want your child at three years old asking why it sucks your boob but its friends haven’t done it for years – think of the little one.